Putting games aside, Facebook might have a whole slew of markets into which it can sell Oculus VR virtual-reality headsets.
The device could very well have military applications. The Norwegian army has been experimenting with it to give soldiers better visibility around armored vehicles. The Norwegian weekly magazine Teknisk Ukeblad showed off the test configuration in a video it released yesterday.
A personal computer connects the Oculus VR to video feeds from four cameras attached to the tank. The feeds are stitched together, and with the turn of the head, a soldier can see around the entirety of the vehicle. That could be especially useful in violent environments, when it’s best that a soldier’s head doesn’t stick out of the hatch and maneuver the tank by eyesight. And it could be much more economically viable than military-grade technology, too.
Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, the venture-backed company behind Oculus VR, is beginning to look more sensible and less exploratory. (Even Oculus founder Palmer Luckey told VentureBeat that “Facebook and Oculus are not an obvious fit, unlike WhatsApp or Instagram.”) Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever and change the way we work, play, and communicate,” and now the work part is easier to imagine.
Google Glass has charted a similar course.
Google gets it. The tech giant announced a Glass at Work program in April.
As for Facebook, it might not yet have a large set of businesses cases to show off as examples for Oculus VR’s business uses, but they’re starting to show up. A startup called Eb1labs has devised professional sailing simulator software to run on the Oculus VR, and last month Oracle Team USA sailor Kinley Fowler tried it on, saying, “it is just like being on board,” according to an account from the startup.
Meanwhile one developer has created a simulation for a room in a hotel being planned in China. A project at the Zurich University of the Arts incorporates Oculus for a full-body flight simulator. And Suzuki recently used an Oculus application at an automotive event, to show people what it’s like to drive a Suzuki Swift.
Perhaps many more business and law enforcement uses of Oculus will emerge in the years to come. And should that happen, other virtual-reality systems, like Sony’s Project Morpheus, could become less about games and more about helping people do their jobs better.